Chelsea v Manchester City

Jose Mourinho has a full squad of players to choose from, not one is injured… quite a statistic after 45 matches. Mourinho puts this down to the players’ training schedule, the club’s medical staff, and a little bit of luck.

Two players will miss out because of suspension. Arjen Robben will be serving the final match of his four-match ban, while William Gallas will be serving the second of what is currently a three-match ban for a straight red card at Fulham last weekend.

One player who will be hoping to make the starting line-up is Shaun Wright-Phillips, a £21m buy from Man City last summer. He’s yet to score for us but the way these things work it wouldn’t surprise me if he does so against his old club… if Mourinho gives him the opportunity.

In stark contrast to our lack of injuries, Stuart Pearce’s City are without 10 senior players including Joey Barton, Georgios Samaras, Antoine Sibierski, Albert Riera, Claudio Reyna and Trevor Sinclair, while Sun Jihai starts a four-match ban for a straight red card received in their FA Cup loss to West Ham.

Prediction: Last weekend’s aberration at Craven Cottage and an unconvincing win over Newcastle in midweek continued our recent malaise. The thing with these periods of poor form, which affect every team regardless of quality, is that they often end abruptly and in a flurry of goals.

I’m hoping that happens today. We cannot afford to drop any more points. Manchester United are past masters at chasing down the top team. Despite our relatively comfortable 12 (9 if United win their game in hand) point lead we’re starting to take glances over our shoulder; what we don’t want to see is a rapidly advancing Red tide.

A 3-0 win will quell our increasing unease.

Chelsea 2 – 0 Manchester City · Update

I wasn’t at today’s match and have only just watched the highlights on Match of the Day.

Since the match ended I’ve been hearing in the media a lot about Didier Drogba, mostly about his hand-ball and his ‘cheating’. Now, it looked to me like he had a good match today: strong, determined and a real ‘handful’ for the City defence. His opening goal was nothing short of brilliant — if Thierry Henry had scored it people would be raving.

Instead the media have focussed on his second goal, an obvious hand-ball before he smashed it into the net. Drogba himself admitted it was hand-ball post-match. What is annoying though are the holier-than-thou types who then accused him of ‘cheating’. I have two words for these people / ‘fans’: get real! Seriously, get real.

Yes, strictly it was cheating — but you name me a centre-forward who would have stopped and said, “Sorry ref, the ball slid off my chest and hit my arm. The goal shouldn’t stand.” Can anybody name one?

Take a look at the goal again — I swear I detected an ever so slight pause before Drogba smashed the ball into the net, as if he was waiting for the ref to blow his whistle or the linesman to flag. They didn’t. He scored. I’d have done the same thing.

As for Drogba’s penchant for falling over a little too easily in a tackle, I wish he’d stop it. But he’s not the first to do it, and he certainly won’t be the last. Joe Cole used to fall over in an overly theatrical way, but he’s cut it from his game. Let’s hope Drogba does too, because it lets him down. He’s still a good player, a great team player.

See Drogba’s goals here (downloadable zip files).

And read Jonathan‘s brilliant article about Drogba and the latest round of wailing in the press here.

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Observer; Sunday Telegraph; Sunday Times; Independent on Sunday; Manchester Evening News; The Independent; Daily Telegraph; The Times; The Guardian.

Related links:

Congratulations to Reading on their promotion to the Premiership for the first time in their history. They created another bit of history by becoming the earliest side to clinch promotion to the top flight.